Brain

Washington, DC – Just one night without sleep can increase the amount of the chemical dopamine in the human brain, according to new imaging research in the August 20 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. Because drugs that increase dopamine, like amphetamines, promote wakefulness, the findings offer a potential mechanism explaining how the brain helps people stay awake despite the urge to sleep. However, the study also shows that the increase in dopamine cannot compensate for the cognitive deficits caused by sleep deprivation.

A report published by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in the August 20 issue of JAMA suggests that measuring how much an individual's performance varies across several neuropsychological tests enhances the accuracy of predicting whether older adults will develop dementia.

CLEVELAND – An increasing number of students are packing more than their computers and iPods when leaving for college. They are bringing along prescribed psychiatric medications. Case Western Reserve University researchers will survey incoming students on how they manage psychiatric medications in the transition from home to college.

And once on campus, experiencing new freedom from supervision by mom, dad and hometown mental health providers in taking those medications may present an opportunity to experiment with stopping those meds.

FAIRBANKS, Alaska – University of Alaska Fairbanks neuroscientists studying stroke and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome will present their research findings at the 7th Conference of the Specialized Neuroscience Research Programs in New York Aug. 19-22, 2008.

NASHVILLE, Tenn.--Calculators are useful tools in elementary mathematics classes, if students already have some basic skills, new research has found. The findings shed light on the debate about whether and when calculators should be used in the classroom.

HOUSTON -- Aug. 19, 2008 -- Using a combination of computer simulations and cutting-edge lab experiments, physical biochemists at Rice University have discovered how a small genetic mutation -- which is known to cause Wilson disease -- subtly changes the structure of a large, complex protein that the body uses to keep copper from building up to toxic levels.

Two neuroscientists at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center are turning magic tricks into science. Stephen Macknik, Ph.D., director of the Laboratory of Behavioral Neurophysiology; and Susana Martinez-Conde, Ph.D., director of the Laboratory of Visual Neuroscience; are working with world-famous magicians to discover the brain's mechanisms underlying attention and awareness.

Self-recognition, it has been argued, is a hallmark of advanced cognitive abilities in animals. It was previously thought that only the usual suspects of higher cognition—some great apes, dolphins, and elephants—were able to recognize their own bodies in a mirror. In this week's issue of PLoS Biology, psychologist Helmut Prior and colleagues show evidence of self-recognition in magpies—a species with a brain structure very different from mammals.

CHAPEL HILL – A new clinical trial at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill using a popular low-dose contraceptive could uncover a more effective treatment for the 5 to 10 percent of women who suffer from premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

Spray yourself with a DEET-based insect repellent and the mosquitoes will leave you alone. But why? They flee because of their intense dislike for the smell of the chemical repellent and not because DEET jams their sense of smell, report researchers at the University of California, Davis.

Their groundbreaking findings will be published Monday, Aug. 18, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

In up to 20 percent of people infected with HIV, the virus manages to escape from the bloodstream and cross into the brain, resulting in HIV-associated dementia and other cognitive disorders. Now, scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have found strong evidence that a component of the cell walls of intestinal bacteria—a chemical present in high levels in the blood of HIV-infected people—helps HIV to penetrate the usually-impregnable blood brain barrier (BBB).

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Recently, Harvard researchers reported that children with autism have a wide range of genetic defects, making it nearly impossible to develop a simple genetic test to identify the disorder. Now, University of Missouri researchers are studying 3-D imaging to reveal correlations in the facial features and brain structures of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which will enable them to develop a formula for earlier detection of the disorder. The researchers anticipate their work also will reveal genetic clues that can direct additional research.

ST. PAUL, Minn. – People with epilepsy appear to have a much higher risk of drowning compared to people without epilepsy, according to a study published in the August 19, 2008, issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Previous studies have shown a higher risk most likely due to seizures but this study is one of the first to show exactly how high the risk may be.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — New research challenges a growing trend toward holding kids out of kindergarten until they're older, arguing that academic advantages are short-lived and come at the expense of delaying entry into the workforce and other costs.

The findings show older kindergartners fare better academically largely because they learn more before starting school, not because age improves aptitude, said Darren Lubotsky, a University of Illinois economics professor who co-wrote the study.

You're about to leave work at the end of the day when your cell phone rings: it's your spouse, asking that you pick up a gallon of milk on the way home. Before you head out the door, though, your spouse calls again and asks you to stop by the hardware store too. Based on your knowledge of the area and rush-hour traffic, you decide to get the milk first and the toilet plunger second. But whoops! The phone rings again. This time, it's your boss, asking you to work late. That means another change of plans.